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Monday, 3 August 2009

Bum fountains, cellphones and Peak Oil

What features, "In Heaven's name" you may ask, perhaps while contemplating the new brick wall you have just built, or maybe considering what Free Elective to attend during your forthcoming semester, do recycling bins, laptop computers, the humble daily loaf and Turkish bum fountains all share that could possibly lead to a coherent and cogent link between them.

To the idle contemplator who maybe has too much time on his hands now that his cat is fully restored to health (albeit one and three quarter inches 'strong' shorter) the answer is apparent, but to those who have less time on their hands, or other concerns, an explanation may assist. It starts with the Bum Fountain. Those who are dismayed by conversations which literally and figuratively fixate on the anal should give this post short shrift, and turn to Googling long lost schoolday enemies to see if they have been incarcerated, or even worse, become bankers.

The Bum Fountain was new to us all - self, RHB, Grasshopper and Burt on our recent Turkish sojourn. When RHB and I first went to Turkey twenty years ago, Turkish toilets were as the definition in Wikipedia - a ceramic basin on the ground with a five inch diameter hole in the middle. Ablutions were performed by squatting over the hole. At the conclusion of one's business, either a nearby garden hose, plumbed to the sink, or a small water filled basin was utilized to clean the particular effluential areas of one's anatomy responsible for the specific emission. Toilet paper was used only to dry anatomical regions, because Turkish plumbing was not adapted for the large quantities of paper which habitually accompanies human (particularly men's) elimination in the rest of Europe. The toilet tissue was then placed in a small bin. The arrangement was less than desirable. .

Times, however, change, and so does plumbing. We entered our apartment in Kas after a long drive from Dalaman, most of us eager to use the facilities. Throughout the previous twenty four hours, each couple had, I suspect, had whispered conversations, wondering what the little faucet (tap to the English) next to each toilet cistern was. It is also possible that the females of the group discussed the faucet as well, but, as I'm sure I need not emphasize, toiletry discussions between men are limited to "How high can you go", or "You stink". Details are verbotten. No Matter how the answer was derived, by the time we reached our apartment, the mystery had been solved. Each toilet is fitted with an adjustable, aimable nozzle, located near the top of the bowl. After the conduct of one's expellations, the faucet is turned on and a stream of water (that resolves tidily and hygenically into the toilet bowl) performs all the necessary cleaning. Again, toilet paper is used simpy to dry, and is placed, wet, but clean into a small bin next to the toilet.

It is hard to describe, once the correct angles have been discovered, quite how pleasurable the experience is. Simply to say "refreshing" does no justice at all. "Cleansing" struggles at the borders of explication. "Kinda fun" is delivered in exactly the right accent, with a certain intonation captures the event nicely, but in words, fails to indicate just how addictive it is to have the cooling jet of water swoosh...............but I digress - I should by now be talking about laptops, loaves and recycling bins.

So impressed was I by the Turkish bum fountain, that I made it a priority to get one installed in the commode in my abode. Predictably, Googling 'Turkish Bum Fountain' only resulted in a whole bunch of hardcore porn, (that I'd seen before when Googling 'seamen' and 'rope' whilst working on an exhibition called Wind, Wood and Sail for a museum in St John, New Brunswick, so I swiftly moved on in my search) and "bidet" resulted in a whole bunch of ugly, boring devices that try to hide their true function by calling hemselves things like "THE ALPINE" or "THE DAWCHESTER". I was stumped, so I e-mailed our friend Chris. She has connections, mostly Turkish, and some, no doubt, in the plumbing trade. I appealed to her for information on where I can obtain the hardware necessary to install my own fountain. Bending over in the shower just cannot go on much longer, besides, its no fun without the associated bodily function. Currently, I wait her response with hope, but if she does not come through with the goods then there's always a Christmastime trip to Istanbul as a possibility.

"But", I hear you cry, "What in the name of all that is Holy, does this have to do with recycling bins and the humble loaf?" Well, the link is, at least to me, clear, and consists of the information contained in an article in the Independent newspaper today, in which Dr Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency (a research body employed by OECD) reports that we may well already be at, or very close to Peak Oil production. Peak Oil production is the top of the thoerised Bell curve in volume (or barrels) of oil produced. Dr Birol, and his organisation may or may not be correct. However, what is NOT disputed, even usually by those who think that Polar Bears are a bunch of lefty ecomaniacs killing themselves to make a point, is that oil is finite. One day, and definitely this century, the oil wil run out. If humans had, as advised in "Civilization:Why?" (admittedly slightly ex post facto), stayed as hunter gatherers then the prescence or not of oil would not have been a problem. But we unfortunately got organised, got civilised and got producing, making, expanding, inventing and mostly, using. This pathological desire on the part of other humans to have stuff is selfish and inconsiderate, mostly because the consequence, twenty thousand years later, is that I am staring into a bleak future without a Bum Fountain if I dont act soon. As oil gets rarer, transportation costs will soar, making import of the thing an impossibility.

But cars, trucks, trains and planes are not the only potential obstacle in the way of my future anal happiness. Without oil, there is no plastic. Without plastic, there is no laptop computer. No laptop, no Google, no e-mail. The more I thought about it, the more I became alarmed at the number of things, all essentail to my possesion of the Bum Fountain, reliant on oil. Take recycling the package once my Bum Fountain gets delivered, for example. All my recycling bins are made of plastic, so if plastic goes extinct, then there's no more recycling, unless we use clay or wood. The English have already removed all their wood, building Naval fleets, and its doubtful whether the country has enough free space to gro wenough trees to make the necessary quantity of recycling boxes for the 25 million or so households in the country, and still publish tabloid newspapers. Clay, although pleasnat to look at is a tad heavy for the task, I would guess.

Worried about the possibility of being without the aforementioned posterior sanitizer, I spoke to a friend to express my concerns. The friend, (in fact a relative), diplomatically suggested that I was being stupid.

"Your being totally stupid" he said, not unkindly, "Plastic can be recycled, dummy" he said. "All that will happen is we'll get more efficient at making plastic, and then we'll recycle it".

I looked at him . "But oil is a finite resource" I said. That means..." and you'll forgive me here, but I was talking to a Science teacher so I had to make my explanation very simple "... that means...well, finite. Recycling does'nt add more."

My friend looked skeptical "You'll see. Humans are incredibly inventive. We'll have electric cars, and oils from plants. You dont know what your talking about." I have already explained that my friend is a Science teacher and therefore knows everything, especially, as he told me later, Chemistry. I pondered his remarks - humans are inventive - the statues on Easter Island, for example are beautiful and the extinct population that made them must have been incredibly inventive.

So, and I refer to the initial paragraph here, what has a simple by-product of wheat to do with all of this? Well, unfortunately, a simple loaf of bread takes about a pint of oil to produce. This is the combination of fuel for seed transport, mechanical planters, combine harvesters, the plastics in the machines that make the machines that process the wheat after harvesting, the energy costs of manufacture, transport, storage, packaging. This particular pint does not include the oil involved in making the computer that processes the stores' inventory, or the phone that is used to order more.

All of this I'm afraid is what connects laptop computers, recycling bins, Turkish Bum Fountains, loaves of bread - namely oil. In a post-Oil world, if I were to be writing this blog, the likelihood is that I would be pounding on a wooden and ivory keyboard, eating a crude sandwich made from local grass and suffering from a bad back as a result of carrying the lead cans out to the clay recycling containers. My only luxury in life would be my Bum Fountain, but even that would be a leaking pipe made from cat intestines, hand cranked, or possibly an Archimedean screw, slowly raising the cold, cold water to eventually dribble weakly down a bum that is grown chafed and rough because of the lack of proper lycra cycling shorts (yes, lycra too depends on oil). I consider myself an environmentalist, but considering this future, I realise I need to act now, urgently. For the future. Tomorrow, I wont build that wall. I'm going to stay on the Internet for as long as it takes to get a proper Bum Fountain.

1 comment:

Bill Hall said...

Nice little article. Well thought out (no stream of consciousness here), rising and falling and rising again to a crescendo. The only problem as I see it is that you have missed the obvious solution. Crap in your bidet like the rest of us.